Use desktop widgets

The fashion amongst desktop operating systems is to utilize desktop widgets. These are small programs that float on the desktop and provide specific but useful functionality, such as telling the time, or showing the weather. Mac OS X has included them since version 10.4 in the form of its Dashboard component, while Windows Vista introduced them upon release in the form of the desktop sidebar.

As you might expect, Ubuntu offers its own variation on this theme in the form of Screenlets. This needs Ubuntu's desktop effects to work— see Tip 74, on page 131 for more information.

To install Screenlets, use Synaptic to search for and install the screen-lets package. Whilst Synaptic is open, also search for and install the compizconfig-settings-manager package. This is needed because, before running Screenlets, you first need to enable the "widget layer" visual effect. To do this once the software is installed, click System ^ Preferences ^ Advanced Desktop Effects Settings and, in the program window that appears, put a check in the box alongside Widget Layer, under the Desktop heading.

Then close that program and start Screenlets by clicking System ^ Preferences ^ Screenlets. Note that Screenlets will automatically start each time you login, and add an icon to the notification area which, when clicked, will open the Screenlets configuration panel.

When the program first starts you might see a warning about how there is "no existing autostart directory". Click the Yes button to create one. Following this, to add a Screenlet to your desktop, just select it in the list, check the Auto start on login box at the bottom right of the program window, and then click the Launch/Add button. The Screenlet will be placed somewhere on your screen (probably the top-left), but you can then drag it to wherever you wish, as shown in Figure 3.45, on the following page. Right-clicking each Screenlet will let you configure it.

Instead of having Screenlets floating on the desktop (or in addition), you can create a setup like Mac OS X, where the widgets are on a floating layer that appears whenever (F9 is hit. To add a widget to the floating layer, add it to the desktop as described above, and then right-click it and select Window ^ Widget.

Many more Screenlets are available in addition to those provided out-of-the-box. To download them, visit http://www.screenlets.org. Look for the Downloads heading and click an entry beneath the Third-party Screen-lets link. To install a new screenlet, download it to your desktop (don't unpack it if it's an archive!), open the Screenlets configuration program (System ^ Preferences ^ Screenlets, or just click the Screenlets notification area icon), and click the Install Screenlet button. Then select the download using the file browser, then select it from the list of Screenlets in the main program window once it's been added to the main collec-

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Figure 3.45: Adding Screenlets to the desktop (see Tip 274, on page 313)

tion. Following this, add it to the desktop as described above. You can delete the file you downloaded once it's installed.

More more tips on adding desktop bling, see Tip 21, on page 79; Tip 79, on page 138; Tip 147, on page 192; Tip 199, on page 237; Tip 74, on page 131; Tip 274, on page 313; and Tip 289, on page 338.

eBooks are, as the name suggests, electronic versions of books. Many classics of literature have been converted to eBook format and can be downloaded from sites such as Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg. org). Additionally, some contemporary authors and publishers release their work as eBooks.

To read any eBooks that are in plain/rich-text format, FictionBook, HTML, Plucker, or Windows Help formats, use synaptic to install FBReader (search for the fbreader package). Note that FBReader isn't able to read eBooks in PDF format—for that, Ubuntu's default PDF viewer can be used. Nor can it read eBooks protected by Digital Rights Management, such as some Mobipocket files (although standard Mobipocket books should work OK).

Once installed, you'll find FBReader on the Applications ^ Office menu. Any eBooks you download will have to be imported into FBReader's library before you can read them, and to do this, click Add eBook to Library toolbar button—it's the third icon from the left on the toolbar, and you can hover the mouse cursor over each icon to see a tooltip explaining what the icon does. Then navigate to the file. You may need to fill in author and title details when prompted, depending on the eBook format.

To choose between the eBooks in your library in future, click the first icon on the toolbar.

Once the eBook has been opened, use the Page Up and Page Down keys to page through the document. A progress bar at the bottom of the screen will show your progress through the entire text.

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